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The President's Trip to South Asia

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Office of the Press Secretary
(Islamabad, Pakistan)

For Immediate Release March 25, 2000


Islamabad, Pakistan

4:20 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: As-salaam aleikum. It is an honor to be the first President of the United States to address all the people of Pakistan, and the first to visit your country in more than 30 years. I'm here as a great admirer of your land's rich history, of its centuries of civilization which stretch as long as the Indus River. I'm here as one whose own nation has been greatly enriched by the talents of Americans of Pakistani descent. But most of all, I am here as a friend -- a grateful friend who values our long partnership; a concerned friend who cares deeply about the future course of your country; a committed friend who will stand with the people of Pakistan as long as you seek the stable, prosperous, democratic nation of your founders' dreams.

More than half a century ago, Muhammad Ali Jinnah shared that vision as he addressed Pakistan's Constituent Assembly. "If you work together," he said, "in the spirit that every one of you is first, second and last a citizen, with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make."

The Quaid-e-Azam ended that speech by reading a telegram he had just received. The message expressed hope for success in the great work you were about to undertake. That message was from the people of the United States.

Despite setbacks and suffering, the people of Pakistan have built this nation from the ground up, on a foundation of democracy and law. And for more than 50 years now, we have been partners with you. Pakistan helped the United States open a dialogue with China. We stood together when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Our partnership helped to end the Cold War. In many years since, we have cooperated in the fight against terrorism. Our soldiers have stood together in missions of peace in every part of the world. This is your proud legacy; our proud legacy.

Now we are in the dawn of a new century, and a new and changing world has come into view. All around the globe, a revolution is taking hold -- a revolution that is tearing down barriers and building up networks among nations and individuals. For millions it has made real the dream of a better life with good schools, good jobs, a good future for their children.

Like all key moments in human history, this one poses some hard choices, for this era does not reward people who struggle in vain to redraw borders with blood. It belongs to those with the vision to look beyond borders, for partners and commerce and trade. It does not favor nations where governments claim all the power to solve every problem. Instead, it favors nations where the people have the freedom and responsibility to shape their own destiny.

Pakistan can achieve great things in this new world, but real obstacles stand in the way. The political situation, the economic situation, the tensions in this region -- they are holding Pakistan back from achieving its full potential in the global economy.

I know I don't have to tell you all this. This is something you know, something you have seen. But I do have hope. I believe Pakistan can make its way through the trouble, and build a future worthy of the vision of its founders: A stable, prosperous, democratic Pakistan, secure in its borders, friendly with its neighbors, confident in its future. A Pakistan, as Jinnah said, at peace within and at peace without.

What is in the way of that vision? Well, clearly, the absence of democracy makes it harder, not easier, for people to move ahead. I know democracy isn't easy; it's certainly not perfect. The authors of my own country's constitution knew that as well. They said that the mission of the United States would always be, and I quote, "to form a more perfect union." In other words, they knew we would never fully realize our ideals, but that we could keep moving closer to them. That means the question for free people is always how to keep moving forward.

We share your disappointment that previous democratic governments in Pakistan did not do better for their citizens. But one thing is certain: democracy cannot develop if it is constantly uprooted before it has a chance to firmly take hold. Successful democratic government takes time and patience and hard work. The answer to flawed democracy is not to end democracy, but to improve it.

I know General Musharraf has just announced a date for local elections. That is a good step. But the return of civilian democratic rule requires a complete plan, a real road map.

Of course, no one from the outside can tell Pakistan how it should be governed. That is for you, the people of Pakistan, to decide, and you should be given the opportunity to do so. I hope and believe you want Pakistan to be a country where the rule of law prevails; a country where officials are accountable; a country where people can express their points of view without fear; a country that wisely forsakes revenge for the wounds of the past, and instead pursues reconciliation for the sake of the future. If you choose this path, your friends in the United States will stand with you.

There are obstacles to your progress, including violence and extremism. We Americans also have felt these evils. Surely we have both suffered enough to know that no grievance, no cause, no system of beliefs can ever justify the deliberate killing of innocents. Those who bomb bus stations, target embassies or kill those who uphold the law are not heroes. They are our common enemies, for their aim is to exploit painful problems, not to resolve them.

Just as we have fought together to defeat those who traffick in narcotics, today I ask Pakistan to intensify its efforts to defeat those who inflict terror.

Another obstacle to Pakistan's progress is the tragic squandering of effort, energy and wealth on polices that make your nation poorer, but not safer. That is one reason we must try to resolve the differences between our two nations on nuclear weapons.

Again, you must make the decision. But my questions to you are no different from those I posed in India. Are you really more secure today than you were before you tested nuclear weapons? Will these weapons make war with India less likely or simply more deadly? Will a costly arms race help you to achieve any economic development? Will it bring you closer to your friends around the world, closer to the partnerships you need to build your dreams?

Today, the United States is dramatically cutting its nuclear arsenal. Around the world nations are renouncing these weapons. I ask Pakistan also to be a leader for nonproliferation. In your own self-interest, to help us to prevent dangerous technologies from spreading to those who might have no reservations at all about using them, take the right steps now to prevent escalation, to avoid miscalculation, to reduce the risk of war.

As leaders in your own country have suggested, one way to strengthen your security would be to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The whole world will rally around you if you do.

I believe it is also in Pakistan's interest to reduce tensions with India. When I was in New Delhi, I urged India to seize the opportunity for dialogue. Pakistan also must help create conditions that will allow dialogue to succeed. For India and Pakistan this must be a time of restraint, for respect for the line of control, and renewed lines of communication.

I have listened carefully to General Musharraf and others. I understand your concerns about Kashmir. I share your convictions that human rights of all its people must be respected. But a stark truth must also be faced. There is no military solution to Kashmir. International sympathy, support and intervention cannot be won by provoking a bigger, bloodier conflict. On the contrary; sympathy and support will be lost. And no matter how great the grievance, it is wrong to support attacks against civilians across the line of control.

In the meantime, I ask again: Will endless, costly struggle build good schools for your children? Will it make your cities safer? Will it bring clean water and better health care? Will it narrow the gaps between those who have and those who have nothing? Will it hasten the day when Pakistan's energy and wealth are invested in building its future? The answer to all these questions is plainly no.

The American people don't want to see tensions rise and suffering increase. We want to be a force for peace. But we cannot force peace. We can't impose it. We cannot and will not mediate or resolve the dispute in Kashmir. Only you and India can do that, through dialogue.

Last year, the world watched with hope as the leaders of India and Pakistan met in Lahore on the road to better relations. This is the right road to peace for Pakistan and India, and for the resolution of the problems in Kashmir. Therefore, I will do all I can to help both sides restore the promise and the process of Lahore.

A few months ago we had a ceremony at the White House to mark the end of Ramadan. An Imam shared a message from the Koran which tells us that God created nations and tribes that we might know one another, not that we may despise one another. During the years of my presidency, I have tried to know the Muslim world as part of our common humanity. I have stood with the people of Bosnia and Kosovo, who were brutalized because of their Muslim faith. I have mourned with Jordanians and Moroccans at the loss of their brave leaders. I have been privileged to speak with Palestinians at their National Council in Gaza.

Today I am proud to speak with you because I value our long friendship, and because I believe our friendship can still be a force for tolerance and understanding throughout the world. I hope you will be able to meet the difficult challenges we have discussed today. If you do not, there is a danger that Pakistan may grow even more isolated, draining even more resources away from the needs of the people, moving even closer to a conflict no one can win. But if you do meet these challenges, our full economic and political partnership can be restored for the benefit of the people of Pakistan.

So let us draw strength from the words of the great Pakistani poet, Muhammad Iqbal, who said, "In the midst of today's upheaval, give us a vision of tomorrow." If the people of Pakistan and South Asia are driven by a tolerant, generous vision of tomorrow, your nation and this entire region can be the great success story of the world's next 50 years.

It is all in your hands. I know enough about the ingenuity and enterprise and heart of Pakistani people to know that this is possible. With the right vision, rooted in tomorrow's promise, not yesterday's pain -- rooted in dialogue, not destruction -- Pakistan can fulfill its destiny as a beacon of democracy in the Moslem world, an engine of growth, a model of tolerance, an anchor of stability. Pakistan can have a future worthy of the dreams of the Quaid-e-Azam.

If you choose that future, the United States will walk with you. I hope you will make that choice. And I pray for our continued friendship, for peace, for Pakistan -- Zindabad.


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